Changing lives through learning
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Issue 2, November 2014


Welcome to the Supporting Learners Newsletter from unionlearn.  This electronic publication has been produced to keep you up to date with news, developments and resources that will help support learners in the workplace. 

Supporting Learners in the Regions

Two regional unionlearn conferences recently took place both of which were extremely well attended and well received.

On the 25th of September the Midlands region put on an event focused on providing information around 'Learning tools and resources'.  Presentations were given on union learning in the region, Supporting Mid-life Development, ESOL resources, information on projects from the Behavioural Research Centre, the Use-IT app and the union learning Climbing Frame.  Participants were able to take part in two interactive workshops, one focused on ESOL resources and another on Supporting Mid-life Development.

On the 23rd of October a ULR Network Event took place in Leeds.  Activities and presentations were given on Supporting Mid-life Development, Digital Champions, Citizen Maths and information from the National Consortium of Colleges and Providers (NCCP).  The event was informative and interactive and the final activity for the day was a fun creative literacy workshop which was run by the author Ian Clayton.

Both events were a fantastic opportunity to get an update on unionlearn projects and resources, try out learning activities, share best practice and network with other ULRs.

Find out about future unionlearn events from the Supporting Learners Newsletter, the ULR Events section on the Climbing Frame and the unionlearn website. Above and below are photos from the two events.


Unionlearn ULR Survey 2014

Unionlearn have launched a new survey aimed at union learning representatives (ULRs) and/or union representatives that play a role in supporting learning in the workplace.  You can complete the survey if you are an existing ULR/union rep or if you have been one in the past but have since given up the role.

The survey asks simple questions about how you carry out your union role and should only take about 5 minutes to do.  Everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a prize draw, where three lucky respondents will be picked at random to win a Kindle. Unionlearn will be disseminating the findings from the survey on its website in the near future.

To complete the survey, please visit: The deadline for completing the survey is Friday 28th November 2014. 


Getting on at Work
TUC Education has taken on the redesign, maintenance, re-launch and promotion of the Getting on at Work qualifications and materials.  These work-based qualifications are separate from union reps qualifications and are for adults who wish to progress in the workplace or are seeking new employment.  The Getting on at Work qualifications can support the needs of a range of learners including:
  • Workers accessing union learning
  • Workers who want to develop skills for progressing at work
  • Workers facing change at work including redeployment
  • As well as learners looking to enter or re-enter employment.
Getting on at Work is able to support learners who are working to progress towards a range of qualifications. The programme has two levels of qualification, Entry Level 3 and Level 1.  There are a number of pathways with credits attached that are flexible to learners’ needs. 

There are 4 mandatory units totalling 6 credits:
  • Approaches to learning
  • Managing study
  • Getting the most out of training
  • Planning for progression.
Followed by 7 credits from units in one of the following pathways:
  • Adapting to change
  • Equality and diversity
  • Financial capability at work
  • Working with others
  • Writing at work
  • Progressing at work.
Current funding for providers for the two qualifications is through the adult skills budget.  Materials for the qualifications are available from the unionlearn website:

Further information about the qualifications and accreditation, along with qualification workbooks, is available through the awarding organisation NOCN on their website: 
Study OU Access Modules for free!
An Open University (OU) Access module is an ideal starting point if you need to develop your study skills and build your confidence.  They have been specially designed to help you find out what it's like to study with the OU, get a taste for the subjects which they offer and develop your study skills. If you study an Access module as an additional preparatory stage towards an OU qualification you could be eligible to study your module for free.

Registration closes on the 8th of January 2015 for Access courses starting in February with the OU.  Register early for free places for those that are eligible.  For more information visit: 

You are more skilled than you think!
Many ULRs across the UK have been making use of the 'Value My Skills' cards which unionlearn developed as part of the Mid-life Career Review Project.  The transferable skills cards can be used as a unique way to start discussions with learners and help them address skills they have and skills which they would like to develop. 

Each pack contains 56 skills cards in four categories People, Ideas, Data and Things.  For each skill the learner must decide which heading - Very Competent, Competent, Adequate and Underdeveloped is most appropriate and lay the card under that heading.  The ULR can then look to highlight skills which the learner has and help them develop skills which they may wish to improve on in order to reach their goals.  Many ULRs are making use of the Climbing Frame website to record learners skills and help them to develop an action plan.

For more information about Supporting Mid-life Development and to order a pack of the Value My Skills cards please email Jane Warwick: To register and log into the Climbing Frame website visit: 

Nominations for the Adult Learners' Week Awards 2015 are now open!

The Adult Learners' Week Awards 2015 are now open and awaiting nominations.  NIACE the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education is inviting nominations for remarkable individuals, tutors, projects and employers who have used learning to transform their lives and the lives of others.

Since 1992 Adult Learners’ Week has been a national celebration of the transformational impact that learning has on people of all ages, from all walks of life and in all parts of the country. Adult Learners’ Week 2015 (13 – 19 June) will be preceded once again by a six-week Festival of Learning, which this year comprised of over 4,000 events and was supported by unionlearn, colleges, universities, workplaces, museums and other high profile organisations and initiatives. 

The closing date for submitting your nominations is 5pm, Wednesday 17th December 2014.  For more information and to nominate please visit: 

Inspiring communities, first-time students and trade unionists across London
In 1823, Dr George Birkbeck founded the London Mechanics’ Institute (which later became Birkbeck) to educate working people. His radical initiative enabled artisans and craftsmen to learn about science, art and economics. Today Birkbeck remains true to its original mission and many projects are underway to encourage adults to think about studying at university.  

Birkbeck’s Pop-Up University activities exemplify the College’s commitment to attract new students. Drawing inspiration from the trend for short-term Pop-Up retail spaces, Birkbeck decided to set up shop in north-west London.  As part of the collaboration with the Willesden Green Town Team, a shop in Queens Parade, NW2, was transformed into a drop-in centre and classroom. During its three-month existence in spring 2014, 35 Birkbeck academics delivered 80 talks and workshops at the Pop-Up University to adult learners.

Each week the events covered a different theme, including community, technology, money and politics. Popular sessions included workshops about happiness and well-being (led by David Tross), a discussion about London’s housing crisis (led by Paul Watt), and talks referring to local history, including the Great Grunwick Strike of 1976-78 (led by Dr Alex Colas). In total, 650 people registered for the events and many more visited the shop to learn about higher learning.

Annette McCone, Widening Access Manager at Birkbeck, said: “The Pop-Up University concept is really working. It is a powerful way of introducing the passion and expertise of Birkbeck’s academics to local residents.  It’s also a reminder that university study is about attitude not age and it’s never too late to get started.”

2014 was also significant for outreach work because it saw the renewal of a three-year agreement between Birkbeck and the trade unions. As part of the agreement, Birkbeck and unionlearn work together to champion higher education. This includes a 10 per cent discount on tuition fees for trade unionists studying for new qualifications. Discounts worth nearly £400,000 have been claimed over the last three years.

Find out more about Birkbeck’s outreach activities at or visit their Open Evening on the 26th November  There are also free ‘get started’ workshops to help you apply and prepare for university For information on the Birkbeck union discount visit: 

Coming soon... the NEW unionlearn website!

A new responsive unionlearn website is currently being redesigned and rebuilt, a step forward to the world of tablets and smartphones. Quicker and easier to access essential information and resources from unionlearn, the new website will offer a range of opportunities to engage with unionlearn, ULRs and other users of the site. Watch this space for more information coming very soon!


Unionlearn Southern and Eastern Region Conference: 18 November 2014, London. For more information please email:

Wales ULR Conference: 20-21 November 2014, Ewloe. 
For more information please email Linsey Imms:

Birkbeck Open Evening, 26 November 2014, London. For more information please call: 020 7631 6000.

Midlands ULR Forums are taking place in:
Shrewsbury 5 December 2014
Lincoln 10 December 2014
Northampton 11 December 2014
Stoke-on-Trent 12 December 2014
Leicester 16 December 2014
Coventry 17 December 2014

For more information about the forums and to book a place please email Surjit Chohan:

Bite-size Briefings taking place in the Northern Region, Newcastle:
Supporting Mid-life Development & the Climbing Frame 27 November 2014
Domestic Violence and the Workplace 4 December 2014
Defending the right to organise and represent members 9 December 2014

For more information about these briefings and to book a place please email Anne Cairns:

If you have any events you would like to promote in future issues of Supporting Learners News and/or on the union learning Climbing Frame website please email Louisa Smith:

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